SPORTS fans and businesses in the city are on a high after the long-awaited announcement that world champion Andy Lee’s “dream” of defending his WBO world title in Limerick will go ahead on September 19.
The fight against Billy Joe Saunders in Thomond Park could attract up to 30,000 to the famous rugby grounds, and a number of hotels in the city quickly sold out over the weekend following the announcement - even though tickets have yet to go on sale.
The newly elected mayor of Limerick, Cllr Jerry O’Dea, said the event will have a major positive impact for the city, and generate millions of euro in revenue for the city.
“Andy Lee is a huge credit to this city, and he has revitalised boxing in the city. When he was announced as Limerick Person of the Year you could see how much it meant to him and the pride he has in Limerick. The city is certainly on an upward curve after many years in the doldrums and this event is only going to help further,” the publican told the Limerick Leader.
John Cantwell, manager of Thomond Park, has yet to comment on the logistics of the event in the stadium, which can hold over 26,000 people.
However, sources told this newspaper that part of the stadium could be cordoned off and extra seating added to the grounds, boosting numbers even further.
Sean Lally, manager of the Strand hotel, which has already sold out for September 19, said the staging of this event “copper-fastens the great reputation we have for sport in this city.”
“We were full in the hotel within an hour of it being announced. There was a huge level of interest, and we’d imagine we could be full on the Friday night also, so the benefit to the city will be considerable.”
Mr Lally noted that a study undertaken in recent years showed that a quarter-final game at Thomond Park worth in the region of €10m. “There’s no doubt it will be worth millions, how many millions I’m not quite sure,” he added.
The Clarion Hotel on Steamboay Quay is also booked out for both the Friday and Saturday nights, while many rooms in the Absolute Hotel have also been sold.
Lee earlier declared that defending the title in his home town would be a “dream”.
“I’ve had three dreams in my career,” he said. “One was to win a world title and two was to bring it back to Limerick. And my third dream would be to defend it in Limerick and hopefully that can be done in the summer.”